“Two hundred thousand subterranean heroes who, by day and by night, for a mere pittance lay down their lives to the familiar `fall of rock` and who, at deep levels, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 feet in the bowels of the earth, sacrifice their lungs to the rock dust which develops miners` phthisis’ and pneumonia.”
Last week’s massacre of 34 striking workers in Marikana, marks perhaps the lowest point in post-Apartheid South African history. Poor, black working class miners were shot down like animals, killed for profit. South Africa remains possibly the most unequal society in the world – the black majority still faces a life of poverty and toil, if they are lucky enough to even find work; while the still largely white elite, enjoy a life more familar to the suburbs of Atlanta or Los Angeles, than a country in which over the half the country’s citizens live below the poverty line, without access to basic services. As a wave of community protests which has arisen the townships of the country over the last few years intensifies South Africa has been dubbed the protest capital of the world. In the last three years, there has been an average of 2.9 “gatherings” per day resulting in a 12,654 “gathering” incidents during 2010.